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May 13, 2007 09:02 AM

Isn't there anything good to say about life as a chef?

All of the negative posts about life in the culinary world have been very distressing to read. My son is off to culinary school in the fall (J & W), and is quite passionate about the road ahead of him. He's had some great experience this past year working with some of Boston's top chefs and has loved every minute ( and yes, the days were very long). So, I ask.....any good experiences out there? Any happy chefs?

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  1. Well, according to today's L.A.Times, Spago's Lee Hefter seems to be enjoying the ride...

    1. i've been in the business a long time. front of the house. i feel profoundly lucky that i get paid to pursue my passion. most people i know tolerate or even hate their jobs. i love mine.

      yes, it's long hours and i will never become a millionaire. and i've worked for some (boston) chefs who should be committed. that being said, i can't imagine doing anything else.

      if your son has found his calling, best of luck to him!

      2 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I often feel left out of such discussions, as I am a relatively contented chef with a kitchen crew that makes me proud and happy every day. There is rarely any yelling, instead respect and a sense of fun. Bad language, sure (but that's my fault). That said, I'm surely no celebrity, and never will be. Does that come with the territory? Or with the big money? Then you can have them.

        Best of luck to your son. There are all kinds of kitchens out there ; )

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          hotoynoodle, I feel exactly the same way. Restaurant work just gets into your blood. I tried to leave that world behind for a bit a few years back and took a desk job,(to appease my parents, I think), and I left that job feeling like my entire soul had been sucked out of me. When I returned, I think I had grown just enough to get out of jaded server mode into mature, happy, glad to be of help server mode. Since then, I have also been among the very few to say that I love my job, and I look forward to going in to work every day. And you're right; no very many people can say that. And the same thing goes with chefs. Restaurants are fascinating places to work. Those of us that love it, are miserable in other settings.

        2. What, you think long hours, low pay, crazy people, and repetetive stress injuries are 'negative'? If your son truly has the passion, those negatives will just be minor annoyances in a profession that otherwise brings him great satisfaction.

          I think cooking really is a calling, and those of us who hear the call answer it becausewe have to. There is no other place for us, and we accept that the kitchen is where we need to be. The warnings you read are to try to give people with a fantasy of a chef's life a reality check. Thinking it looks like fun is not enough. You do need to have passion, drive, love, skill, the gift of some actual talent. I had an extern recently who went to pastry school because, well, he was going to do computer science but there was too much homework...I doubt he'll get very far. The financial horror stories are true, too. Spending $80k because you really like to watch Food Network isn't going to pay off. I think those who go to culinary school and are most sucessful are the ones who go because they already know enough to really want to learn more, really love food, and are curious and driven to learn as much as they can. It sounds like your son might do well.

          1. Working in a kitchen is hard, often crazy work.

            That said -- I loved it. Even my worst day in a kitchen was better then my best days at any other job. I loved the pace and energy of the work, and how it demanded that you be able to think fast and move fast and make the right decisions at the right moment.

            And I loved the autonomy -- as long as the right plate with the right food is going out at the right time, how get there is totally up to you (caveat on this - I never worked in really high end places. my bosses were usually thrilled if more then half of the kitchen staff showed up sober) .

            Another I loved was the scope for creativity and just plain fun you had in the down times -- I remember one time working at the Chinese restaurant, and cadging a cup grand marnier from the bar one day when we were totally dead, and teaching the dishwashers to make crepe suzettes. Fun.

            1. As all of these restaurant people are saying, "If you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life."

              2 Replies
              1. re: yayadave

                I will not bore you with the details, but I operate a successful catering operation in the Los Angeles area....I was our first cook...I will not call myself a chef. I am self taught and loved every day I worked in our kitchens. We have grown our business dramatically over the last 20 years...I do not work in the kitchen any longer(We have hired chefs that are more capable of taking the company to new heights. I miss every day that I am no longer producing in a food production capacity. I went home dead tired every day...but I loved it!!

                I wish your son the best of is a great calling

                1. re: yayadave

                  lol, um, no. trust me, i know i *work* for a living. big difference between my 16 hour days and my evening on the deck with a bottle of sancerre!